While Italian music plays in the background, the scene is set in a delightful picturesque setting of a Tuscany cottage backyard, complete with a lemon tree and rustic table with chairs and bench. Relatives have arrived for what may be a last reunion with family patriarch, Uncle Luigi (Ray Xifo),who is terminally ill.
Luigi’s over-sensitive sister Maria (Nicola Bertram) who is going through a divorce, has arrived from the US with her son Max (Ryan Plourde), and 13-year-old daughter, Anna (Erin McIntosh) a brooding, self-absorbed adolescent. Uncle Luigi is a poet, and attempts to mentor Anna, an aspiring poet, both in writing poetry and learning Italian. Some candle-lit late night encounters at the backyard table take place between the two, with possibly too much Italian spoken for non-Italian-speaking theatergoers like myself, who found my interest ebbing at times.
All scenes, but one, begin and end with the family ferrying an endless stream of food, table settings, napkins, plates, cups, and wine glasses in and out through the patio door. Sometimes all seven actors, and at other times only two or three, appear in a scene and sit around the table, a main focal point, to eat, sing, dance, and share stories. Luigi’s wife Mariella (Helen Duffy), constantly attentive to his needs, tells stories and, not to be outdone, so does her expressive son Paolo (Gian Franco Tordi). The others, in varying degrees, get their moments to shine—Anna’s older brother Max (Ryan Plourde) plays guitar and sings, and Diana (Stephanie Sanchez), Paolo’s girlfriend, performs a solo dance and executes some yoga postures.
Most scenes are rather short, with more Italian spoken than would probably be understood by many in the audience. I wondered whether some brief scenes, rather than standing alone, would be better served if conjoined with another scene. This would have shortened the length of a two-and-a-half-hour production that has no scene change but one that’s viewed through a window to the bedroom where Luigi, ailing, lies in bed, attended by his loving wife, Mariella.
In my own view, sophisticated playwright Louise Munson can easily overcome some length and language problems. There is some truly thought provoking and interesting conversation between the family members in her creation. Talented Director Annie McVey and the entire cast also did a great job in this world premiere.
“At the heart of this play is the friendship between a thirteen-year-old and the uncle that she has never before met. I wanted to capture one of those brief and subtle life-altering moments that people can have when they’re in a new, strange place and find themselves connecting to others who may not even speak the same language. It’s funny how we often remember a handful of moments more clearly than some whole months, or even years of our lives” – Louise Munson; Playwright
Presented by The Inkwell Theatre, The World premier of “Luigi” by Louise Munson is currently a guest production at VS Theatre.
Written by: Louise Munson (Playwright) a recipient of the Max K. Lerner Playwriting Fellowship, the 2013 Walter E. Dakin Fellowship at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and was a Liam Rector Scholar at Bennington College.
Directed by:Annie McVey (Director) member of the Playwrights Horizons' Directing faculty. L.A. credits include every installment of Michael Feldman's Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over (ACME Comedy Theater, Groundlings, The Matrix, UCB)
Produced by: Daniel Shoenman, Bonnie Hallman, and Elliot Shoenman
Ray Xifo (as Luigi),
Helen Duffy (as Mariella
Erin McIntosh (as Anna)
Stephanie Sanchez (as Diana)
Nicola Bertram (as Maria)
Gian Franco Tordi (as Paolo)
Ryan Plourde (as Max)
Daniel Shoenman (Producer/Sound Design), Bonnie Hallman (Producer), Elliot Shoenman (Executive Producer), David Mauer (Set Design), Derrick McDaniel (Lighting Design), Stephen Rowan (Cosutme & Prop Design), and Lisa Pantone (Casting Director).
5453 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, 90010
When: Opened July 18, 2014
Running: Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm
Closing date: August 16, 2014
Ticket Price: $10 - $20
For reservations: Inkwell Theatre